Welding is great because you can use this technique to attach metal in almost any position. Overhead welding is a popular welding technique because it is one of the only ways to weld metal in place for larger objects such as buildings, pipelines, and more. However, overhead welding comes with additional challenges in terms of welding technique and watching out for your own safety.
To MIG weld overhead, stack your welds and adjust your feed speed. There are a few other settings adjustments you need to make on your MIG welding machine. The most important thing to remember is safety—MIG welding overhead comes with some additional safety challenges as you are in danger from falling molten metal.
Here is your complete guide to MIG welding overhead. Remember that at the end of the day, this is very similar to the type of welding you already do horizontally, just with a few adjustments.
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Can You MIG Weld Overhead?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of overhead welding techniques, you probably want to know if you can MIG weld overhead at all.
The good news is that yes, you can MIG weld overhead. MIG welding machines are very versatile and, you can use them in many different positions and for many different purposes. You usually use overhead welding on the underside of a joint and in structures where you can’t easily dismantle everything to weld.
Welding Overhead vs. Welding Horizontally
Understanding the differences between welding overhead and welding horizontally can help you prepare better for this task.
Welding overhead comes with a few additional dangers. There is a higher risk of splatter, or molten metal, falling on you. Make sure to wear protection, such as a full-coverage welding helmet or a welding hood.
Welding overhead requires a bit more control because you are going against gravity, which is why you need to adjust your welding technique in terms of hand placement, angle, and more.
However, welding overhead is ultimately the same principle as welding horizontally. You are using the same machinery and techniques, just in a different position.
Tips for MIG Welding Overhead
Now that you know that welding overhead with a MIG machine is possible, here are some tips to keep in mind when you are working on this technique.
1. Check Your Wire Feed Speed
MIG welding works by using a filler wire to create the molten metal pool that binds two pieces together. On most MIG welding machines, this wire is fed into the weld automatically, although you can adjust the speed.
When you are welding overhead, adjust your wire feed speed so that it is an even speed. You want your wire feed to be slower than when you’re welding horizontally. Since you’re out of position, you will be welding slower. You also want to keep the wire feed slow so you don’t create a large melting pool all at once as it could drip. Just be careful not to go too slowly, as that will make for a very frustrating welding experience.
2. Stack Your Welds
“Stacking” your welds is a great technique that can help you cover large joints when welding overhead. First, make one long pass down the center. Then, create a second pass starting from the bottom of the first one and ending in the middle. The third pass starts from the top and meets the other one in the middle.
Stacking the joints is a more efficient way of covering up an overhead weld than if you just created one large weld. Multiple passes ensure that you cover up the gap properly. Working with smaller welds is also better for you because you minimize the risk of molten metal dripping down.
3. Keep the Arc Short
When you’re welding overhead, you will have to adjust the settings of your MIG welding machine as well as your technique. One important technical adjustment is shortening the arc.
There are a few reasons why you want a close arc when you are welding overhead. The shorter the arc, the more control you have over the weld, which is important when you are trying to meet the challenge of welding out of position. Shortening the arc also decreases the melting pool, which means there will be less molten metal dripping on you and less to clean up later.
4. Run the MIG Welder Hot
One final important tip is to adjust the settings on your MIG welding machine. You want to run your MIG welder hotter, about as hot as you would for a flat weld. The reason the temperature matters is that overhead welding requires more force from your welder since it is going against gravity, after all. Then, the force of the arc is on your side, and welding will be much easier.
Welding with a hot MIG welder also yields better results because the weld will be flatter and have less clean-up.
Mistakes to Avoid
Here are some common mistakes people make when overhead MIG welding and how to avoid them.
- Don’t forget your welding helmet. We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating. You do not want molten metal splattering all over you.
- Don’t use a sharp angle. This gives you less control over your MIG welder, leading to splatter and poor welds.
- Don’t weld with just one hand. It may be tempting to show off, but you really want more control when welding in this position.
- Don’t create a very large weld pool. You don’t want metal dripping off the weld and falling onto you, so keep the weld pool as small as you can. That’s why working slower and stacking your welds is better.
Many beginner welders are intimidated by the thought of MIG overhead welding, but sometimes this technique is necessary. You will use techniques similar to the ones used in flat welding. However, there are a few tips to make it easier for you, such as shortening the arc, increasing the heat, and being careful about your angles.